Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Best of 2019

This is the ninth in my “Best of the Year” series, dedicated to reflecting on the best experiences of the year. Thirty-six items made this year’s list, about an average number, and as usual it takes some time to decide what makes the top ten and even more time to force rank them to select the best of the best.

Without further ado, here’s 2019’s recap.

10. Tour to Virgin Gorda Baths

Our excursion while docked in Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, started with a 45-minute catamaran ride to the northeast island of Virgin Gorda for the start of the “Tour to Virgin Gorda Baths”. A small, open air bus, driving on the always-disturbing left side of the road, started the scenic adventure, taking us to a parking lot for a short walk to Devil’s Bay, where we got into the water for a short time. From Devil’s Bay, we walked paths, through openings between huge rocks while trying to keep our footing in the many slippery spots. We had to duck under rock overhangs and turn sideways several times to get through some very narrow openings before arriving at Back Bay. There we spent 45 minutes in the water bobbing up and down and being shoved around by the warm waves, chatting with folks from our’s and other tours. The trip back to the bus took a much easier, albeit less scenic route, finishing with a return catamaran ride to the cruise ship.

9. NCAA Tournament Games In Jacksonville

The culmination of our 15-day cruise/Florida vacation was attending the first and second round NCAA basketball tournament games in Jacksonville. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Downtown on the St. Johns River, about a fifteen minute walk to VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. When you make plans months in advance, you don’t know which teams you’ll watch, but we’re college basketball fans and there is no better way to get psyched for March Madness than attending the games in person. Seton Hall, Yale, Abilene Christian and Belmont lost their first round games on Thursday, but a couple of them went down to the wire. In Saturday’s second round Kentucky beat a surprisingly scrappy Wofford team by six and LSU downed Maryland by a single bucket.

8. San Juan Food and Culture Tour

Our excursion while docked in San Juan was a food and culture tour, with Stephanie as our guide. She walked us through historic districts explaining their significance, which included a block with a hundred pink umbrellas hanging overhead, a tradition that started after hurricane Maria and its horrific destruction. The food portion included island coffee, meat and cheese sandwiches on a buttered croissant at Cuatro Sombras, plantain with butter and garlic, that we mashed ourselves, served with a side of rice and beans, and a Mojito, at Cafe El Punto, and a flan at Vaca Brava.

7. Lunch at Mango Mangos

We hope to spend a winter month in Florida in 2020, so as we traveled from Fort Lauderdale after leaving the cruise ship and heading north along the east coast, we checked out a few possible areas and it ended up being an easy decision: Saint Augustine Beach. It’s not a spring break destination, not having many hotels, and the main road, A1A Beach Blvd, has minimal thru-traffic, as it’s only useful to access this coastal area. The final selling point was a little Caribbean & American bar/grill a block from the beach named Mango Mangos. We ate a late lunch there both days and their fish tacos are the best. We tried a couple other places, but this is the one we’ll go back to time and again.

6. New Deck, Doors and Roman Shades

The wooden deck was falling apart, the French doors were worn and leaky, and the screen covering doors never worked as well as we wanted. The deck was replaced with two-tone TimberTech composite decking and black railing with lighted caps. The doors were upgraded with a unique venting style that have screens in the bottom and glass that’s raised when fresh air is wanted. To afford more privacy, roman shades were installed over the doors and can be lowered to whatever length desired. While the deck was only extended five feet, the extra space came in very handy for our yearly party, allowing all the food and beverages to be put there, freeing up more space on the patio for guests.

5. Kinzeler Newsletter

Friends of ours own a realty company and wanted to restart a program of mailing quarterly, six-page newsletters to clients and prospects. They had previously purchased a fairly generic newsletter but wanted something better, and I was excited to volunteer my time to design and write its content. We decided what each page would cover, focusing on useful and interesting content covering our community, time and money-savings tips for homeowners, local history, a seasonal article and information on buying and selling homes. Besides satisfying my love of writing, I learned so much as I researched topics to write about. This is a great retirement gig!

4. Digital Filing Projects

Shortly after the beginning of the year and several months into retirement, my previous employer asked if I would be interested in writing an application to save customer purchase orders that arrive in emails to a local share drive, eliminating their need to acquire more filing cabinets. As I had written a similar application before retiring for damage claims documentation, I knew this would be a fun and learning experience. After that one was completed, I was asked to write an application to store invoices after annotating (i.e. stamping) them with vendor, budget and approval information. While the cost of extra filing space was the initial driver, these applications save on paper and printing costs, lost productivity walking back and forth to the printer/scanner, and the time it takes to file invoices and retrieving copies for audits and other business purposes. Besides picking up a little extra spending money for retirement activities, I really love learning and watching an application come to life.

3. Celebrity Edge Cruise

The Edge was the newest addition to the Celebrity cruise line and we enjoyed a week aboard one of its first sailings, leaving out of Fort Lauderdale with three ports of call in the Eastern Caribbean. We had sunny, hot weather all but one day, and we made a lot of use of the running track that spanned two floors and the abundance of deck chairs, never having a problem getting enough for our gang. The Edge featured new staterooms with their Infinite Veranda design that allows the room to go all the way to the edge, merging the balcony with the room. We saw three shows in the Theater, comedian Rondell Sheridan, The Ravons playing rock and roll and Marcus Terell & The Serenades performing Motown delights. The Martini Bar was the highlight of the party scene, spanning three decks, with multi-story, music-synchronized LED lights and bartenders filling a line of fifteen martinis in a single pour from sixteen interconnected cocktail shakers. It seemed like everyone on the ship came out to see the Edge sailing into San Juan Bay, on the north side of Puerto Rico, with its colorful, historic buildings. And if that wasn’t enough, the hot dogs at the Mast Grill were awesome.

2. America’s Cup Sailing Regatta

The final port of call on the cruise was Sint Maarten and we docked at the capital city of Philipsburg on the Dutch-owned, southern side of the island. We boarded a small catamaran for the short trip out to the sailboats where we learned we would be active participants in a racing competition. The crew, headed by Captain Morgan of Jamaica, divided us into two groups, with my wife and I being assigned to the American “Stars and Stripes”, the others to the “Canadian” yacht. My job was being the “back grinder”, where during our into-the-wind changes between port tacking and starboard tacking , I inserted a metal crank in either the port or starboard winch, turned it counter-clockwise until it gave a lot of resistance, then back clockwise many turns to complete the operation. It was about 30 seconds of intense upper body exercise each time, leaving me sweating and breathing hard. A minute or two later the boat would change tack and I was at it again. Fortunately I caught a break during the downwind runs, getting a chance to drink some water and recover. While our boat lost the competition by two lengths, it was an absolute blast sailing in the most perfectly clear blue-green water imaginable.

1. Half-Day Private Catamaran Ride

We traveled to Turks and Caicos in June to celebrate my wife’s youngest sister’s upcoming 60th birthday, staying at the Ocean Club at Grace Bay. It was a great week in the sun and at the Cabana Bar, but the highlight of the trip, and 2019, was a half-day private catamaran ride. Our group loaded onboard at 1:30 pm and the boat visited several islands traveling over beautiful blue-green waters. We had a demonstration of how to remove a conch from its shell and I snapped an up-close picture of a dolphin breaking the water while chasing our boat. But the best experience took me back to my youth. After we headed back towards the Ocean Club, we anchored for a half-hour where we were invited to jump off the boat from its upper balcony or take a curved slide down and get dumped only a few feet. You didn’t have to ask me twice! I was up that ladder in no time and leaped into the water, feeling that long ago, but still familiar rush as you pick up speed before smacking the water. I was a kid again, if only for a few jumps!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Permanent Out-Of-Office Message

I retired on August 24, 2018, and while I tried to inform everyone I could that my work email address would be defunct, I knew a few contact and mailing lists would not get updated, so an out-of-office message would be a polite reminder.  I thought about crafting a short and sweet message, but my fingers wanted to take this last opportunity to make a joke, look at the opportunities ahead and reflect a little on how fortunate I was to pick I.T. as a career and even more fortunate to have been part of teams with really great people.  I was a lot of work and a lot of fun.

If you sent me an email after that day, this is what you have received back.  But if you didn’t...


I've run away and joined a circus...

Just kidding.

After working since I was 11 years old in one job or another, I've retired.

I've traded in my alarm clock for adventures, my calendar for a second cup of coffee and morning commutes for morning exercises.  While this work journey ends with the declaration of retirement, the next journey begins, one that offers the most precious thing in life other than love, that being time.  Time to read, write, golf, explore, create, mentor, listen, give, appreciate and deeply inhale the fragrance of the roses.

I really have loved working, mainly because of the people I've come to know and what we've accomplished together.  Information Technology was a great career choice, and one that ended up being just as much a creative outlet as a technical challenge. And one that I don't have to stop because I'm retired.  That wasn't true in 1974 when I entered Wright State University, in the era of mainframes, but personal computers, the Internet, web sites, mobile devices and open source software hadn't been invented yet.  I can dabble to my heart's content.

Don't bother replying, I'll never get it.  This out-of-office message is permanent.

Signing off ...


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Best of 2018

This is the eighth of my “Best of the Year” series, dedicated to remembering and appreciating all the great experiences and memories the year holds, but before I get to those, I want to acknowledge the loss of several of our dear loved ones, as Marge, Dorothy and Toey passed from this world and into the loving arms of God. It was a difficult year for them in their suffering and for us in our grieving, but we’re comforted that they have been reunited with their loved ones that passed before them.

As is custom, I start this year’s countdown with the tenth best experience and work to the best of the best. What you don’t see are the other thirty-two that didn’t make the cut, but contributed to making this another fun year. Without further ado, here’s 2018.

10. Cocoa Beach

The lone vacation of the year was a January trip to Orlando, and unlike the past two year’s winter trips to an unusually cold Florida, this time we were treated to five days of sunshine and mid-80’s. We had left one day open in our schedule and we used it to take a trip over to Cocoa Beach on the east coast to soak up some rays, walk the sand and listen to surf. We found a tiki bar at the end of long pier and sipped a few frozen concoctions while we relaxed in the way only a day like this can bring.

9. The Loft Theatre

One of the hidden gems I was introduced to this year is the Loft Theatre in downtown Dayton, and with its capacity of just 212, there is truly no bad seat in the house. We watched a performance of the comedy “An Act Of God”, with Sara Mackie playing the title role and two fellow actors playing archangels Michael and Gabriel. The funniest joke I remember is the answer to the age-old riddle, “which came first, the chicken or the egg”. That answer is “neither, the rooster came first”.

8. Penguins Game in Columbus

While good tickets to a Penguins game in Pittsburgh cost a pretty penny, tickets in Columbus cost half as much, and it’s way closer to home, so we decided to visit “enemy” territory for a hockey game in February. Hockey games tend to be low-scoring affairs, but the action is non-stop and there’s typically a shot on goal every minute, leaving no chance to get bored. Since there are three periods in hockey, each team plays offense twice at one end, so we carefully picked seats where we would see the Penguins offense twice. We met up with a former neighbor for dinner at Forno’s before the game and then watched the visiting Penguins beat the Blue Jackets 5-2.

7. Meeting DL Stewart at Figlio

During one of our frequent dinners at Figlio, which more often than not we eat at the bar, my wife noticed the couple next to us and asked if I thought that was DL Stewart, our favorite writer at the Dayton Daily News. I said I thought so, and she proceeded to ask him if indeed that was he, which it was. He graciously talked for a few minutes while he and his wife waited for their table, and after their table was ready, he hung around for a few more minutes to talk some more. He is so personable and so funny, talking about how, long ago, he was supposed to cover the Cleveland Browns, his and my favorite team, but instead got stuck covering the Cincinnati Bengals. And he gave my wife some good-hearted grief over being a Pittsburgh Steeler fan.

6. Paying Off The House Mortgage

After two divorces and sitting at fifty-two years old, I didn’t own a home and never thought I would. Then I moved into my wife’s house after we got married and a few years later refinanced both the primary loan and an equity loan into a single, ten year loan at about eighty percent of its appraised value, which would be paid off when I was sixty-six years old. But we began paying extra every year to reduce that to eight years, when I would turn sixty-four. But we got some extra money as a result of the NewPage-Verso-Catalyst Paper transaction, and used some of that to accelerate the early payoff, which was accomplished in February of this year, just six years after we refinanced. A minor miracle.

5. Tenth Wedding Anniversary

It’s really hard to believe that a few days into the New Year we celebrated ten years of married life together. It’s true that time flies when you’re having fun. That wedding weekend is still a blur, from the rehearsal dinner at Benham’s, the ceremony at Incarnation, reception at the Carillon Park Transportation Museum and flying to St.Thomas for our honeymoon. Looking forward to many more years with my wife and soulmate.

4. My Retirement

First it was going to be October of 2018, then I moved it back to March of 2019, but when ND Paper purchased the U.S. operations from Catalyst Paper, I pulled it forward again, and completed my journey of the working world on August 24th after almost 41 years. I started at Wright State University in November of 1977, went to Hobart Corporation in 1980 and started the run of six paper companies with The Mead Corporation in 1981. It’s hard to leave friends and colleagues, and the work was still fun and challenging, but at 62 years old, I could tell I was ready for retirement and starting a new chapter of life. And whether anyone believes it, I was truly surprised and in a bit of shock when they threw me a surprise party at Jimmy’s Ladder 11. Still brings a tear to my eye.

3. Pat and Emma’s Wedding

My wife’s oldest son Pat married his fiance Emma in June at St. Patrick’s Church in Cleveland. From the rehearsal dinner blessed with beautiful evening weather at the Music Box to the bagpiper greeting guests at the wedding to the reception at Tenk West Bank, the entire weekend came together perfectly after many months of planning. Most of my contribution came from using my computer skills and an eye for detail in printing envelopes for the various events along the way. Staying in downtown Cleveland afforded me the opportunity to walk around FirstEnergy Stadium, home to my Cleveland Browns.

2. Universal Studios

The main destination for our Florida vacation in January was Universal Studios, and specifically, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter which spans the two theme parks. Our two-day, two-park passes allowed us to travel between Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida (the original park) and Hogsmeade in Universal Studios Island of Adventure, riding on The Hogwarts Express train. The most thrilling ride was the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, dodging He Who Must Not Be Named and his snake Nagini. with the help of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Not far behind, but easier on the stomach, was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, where you soar above Hogwarts. Other highlights included a having a refreshing Butterbeer, watching people disappear through a brick wall to access Platform 9 ¾ and the thrill in kid’s faces as they waved their wands to activate special effects.
1. Cameron Indoor Stadium

When something comes off your Bucket List, it’s no surprise it becomes the highlight of the year. I’ve been a Duke basketball fan since the early 1990’s and have wanted to see a game at Cameron Indoor for many years, so when my friend and local resident Bob invited me down to see Duke play Princeton in December, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Cameron is a unique stadium, seating only 9,300 without a bad seat in the house, and looks from the outside a building that could be a church. This year’s Duke team features the most talented group of freshman in the country, headlined by the high-flying Zion Williamson and super-smooth RJ Barrett, and complemented by floor general Tre Jones and sharpshooter Cam Reddish. After a slow start, Duke blew out Princeton by the lopsided score of 101-50. A dream has come true.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Three Stones

My urologist has told me that the passing of each kidney stone is a unique experience and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve had three stones pass so far, as I’ll detail in the following paragraphs. Women have said that it’s the closest that a man will come to experience childbirth, but honestly, if that was the case, we would all have at most one child and the human race would no longer exist. Of course a kidney stone is not as cute and loveable as a baby, so maybe part of my skepticism is based on the lack of a longer-term benefit. Or maybe I’m just a wuss with a low pain tolerance, but in any case, here goes.

The first stone made its appearance back in the late 1980’s while I was working at The Mead Corporation. The morning started with the usual alarm clock, shower, shave and donning of the traditional suit and tie. I walked out the front door of my house, turned to lock it and thought to myself “something just happened”. I stood at the door for a few moments, determined that I couldn’t put a finger on the source of that feeling, locked the door and drove to work. During that twenty minute commute things started going wrong, and by the time I parked at my normal spot on Riverview Avenue, my suit was soaked and I felt terrible. I stood by my car for a few minutes, started feeling better and made the ten minute walk to my office. Within a half-hour I was in more pain than I’ve ever experienced, without a clue to its cause or even a particular body part that was suffering. My colleagues took me to a room to lie down then quickly decided to drive me to Miami Valley Hospital. I spent the next two hours in pain, alternately burning hot and freezing cold, whatever pain medication I was given having no discernible effect. I was relieved when the diagnosis of a kidney stone was made, at least knowing I wasn’t likely to die that day. The doctor decided to give the stone some more time to see if it would pass on its own before deciding on surgery to remove it or shock waves to break it into smaller pieces. An hour or so later I remember the exact moment the stone passed into my bladder. My body temperature shot back to normal and the pain was totally gone. I felt fine and figured I would just go back to work, but they insisted I go home and rest. The final task was to capture the stone as it exited, which took about two days and resulted in a smooth stone no larger than a tomato seed. So much pain caused by such a little object.

Having one stone is not a guarantee of having another, but it’s always in the back of your mind. Is today the day? After about twenty years had passed, I figured, and hoped, I had a “one and done”, however stone number two was not to be denied. This one started with some unusual back pain on a Friday, but eased by Saturday morning, which was appreciated since my wife and I were making the two hour drive to Muncie, Indiana so we could drive a second car back home. By the time we got to Muncie I was not feeling well and passed on eating lunch. Shortly after, the pain hit full force and I knew stone number two was trying to work its way down. My wife drove me home as I laid down across the back seats, feeling each and every bump for two solid hours. We made it home and knowing it was likely just a few hours before the stone reached my bladder and the pain would stop, I tried to tough it out, but it eventually got too much to bear and my wife drove me to Kettering Medical Center. I remember sitting in a chair, bent over and miserable, waiting to be admitted, which seemed to take forever. Like before I was given pain meds, but this time they seemed to help quite a bit and the pain gradually faded away over a couple hour period, no sudden moment of relief. Two weeks later, I passed a nasty-looking, jagged, peppercorn-sized stone, so very different from the first.

The third stone repeated the theme of being a unique experience. My doctor had taken follow-up x-rays after the second stone and saw what could be another stone developing in one of my kidneys. He told me it might elect to stay put and never detach or eventually follow its brothers and make its way down and out. About five years after stone number two I had my answer. In the middle of the night, during one of my normal “wake up, relieve and fall back asleep” cycles, sitting half awake on the throne, I snapped fully awake when the familiar, abrupt, stream stoppage occurred. But in that split-second, my mind was really confused as I wasn’t expecting a stone, not having any pain or other symptoms like the first two events. But sure enough, bloop, a stone popped out, this one not quite the size of number two, but still large enough, and it was quite the relief to know I had skated past hours of pain and a trip to the hospital.

All I can figure, and fervently hope, is that I’m getting better at “birthing” these kidney stones, but since each one is different, who knows what a potential fourth experience may be like. I hope to never know.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Six Paper Companies

My full-time, professional working career began in November of 1977 at Wright State University and continued at Hobart Corporation in 1980. But most of my career, 37 years in total, was spent at paper companies which produced a variety of coated and uncoated papers. Although there were six different names involved, I stayed in the Dayton, Ohio area during all the name changes. But in reflecting on my journey, I realized that every company change had a different, defining emotion, which I’ve bolded in their stories below.

The journey started at The Mead Corporation when I was hired as a mainframe systems programmer. The emotional memory from when I started there in February 1981 was Intimidation. I was in downtown Dayton on the 21st floor of the second tallest building working for a four billion dollar company. I felt like I landed in the big leagues surrounded by incredibly talented individuals and not really knowing if I would fit in or measure up. But the next 21 years were incredible as I moved up into management, ran the network group for awhile and directed the SAP technical group during that project’s initial four-year run. When people ask me where I worked, Mead is the answer, the place I felt most at home.

In August 2001, I walked into a management meeting to find out I was the last of our group to learn that Mead and Westvaco had agreed to a “merger of equals”, a term that has no real meaning since ultimately one company buys the other, and I was Stunned. This was my first real experience in having my apple cart upset and not having a clue what the future held for me. Fortunately it was decided that the IT group would be centered in Dayton and that I would report to the new CIO, the same VP that led the entire SAP project. That fortune only lasted a few years before it was announced that all corporate groups would be relocated to Richmond, Virginia. I am forever grateful to myself for not making that move and staying put in Dayton.

I was without full-time employment for the next ten months, doing a little consulting work, looking for my next job and best of all, planning my wedding. My wife took a big leap of faith, agreeing to marry this guy without a job. We wed in January 2008, and I didn’t get more than 5 hours of sleep the week before, worried about getting a job. When NewPage, the former Papers division of MeadWestvaco, offered me a job following their acquisition of Stora Enso North America, a wave of Relief washed over me. Not only did I get back to the ranks of the fully employed, but I re-joined some of the colleagues I had said goodbye to back in 2005. But after 8 years, my apple cart would be turned over again.

In late 2014, Verso Corporation, a near-bankrupt paper company based in Memphis, Tennessee announced it was buying the financially-stable NewPage Corporation in one of the strangest deals I’ve ever experienced. Now this was the fourth paper company, but the others worked out OK, so I wasn’t overly concerned until the first joint meeting and I got introduced to their highly dysfunctional group of executives, and then the emotion was Anger. I was mad this was happening and I immediately knew my time there was short. The Department of Justice filed suit against both companies and after a year of work limbo, Verso acquired six of NewPage’s paper mills with Catalyst Paper, based outside Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada acquiring the Rumford, Maine and Biron, Wisconsin mills.

Catalyst Paper needed to stand up a U.S. operation quickly and was able to hire a number of NewPage’s Ohio employees as part of the deal with Verso. I was so Thankful when I was extended an offer and couldn’t say yes fast enough. When I first met the Catalyst management team, I was very impressed. It was 180 degrees opposite of the pompous attitude that Verso demonstrated. Unfortunately, but out of necessity to insure that the I.T. system split would be success, I had to be Verso employee for four months to help launch the separation activities before becoming a Catalyst employee to complete the transition. Given the alternative would have been looking for a new job at the age of 59, it was worth putting up with the pain.

Finally, in 2018, as I was lining up my retirement date, Catalyst Paper sold the U.S. operations they had bought three and a half years prior to ND Paper, a large, China-based, financially-strong paper company, returning control to people who were paper-makers, after thirteen years of being owned by all types of equity and debt organizations. When the announcement was made, I was quite simply Calm. I moved up my retirement date to match when I thought would be the proper time to leave, grateful that the colleagues I was leaving behind would be in a better place.

So that’s the story of my 37-year paper career, staying in the Dayton region as the paper industry seemed to revolve around me. For all the changes, I’ve been fortunate to work for mostly great companies and always awesome colleagues. So the final emotion is Gratitude, that even for all the changes, it all worked out for the best in the end.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Letter To My Eighteen-Year-Old Self

October 8, 2018

To: Paul Moorman @ 18

From: Paul Moorman @ 63

Dear Self,

Happy birthday!

If the theories we’ve learned about time travel are true, you will never be able to read this letter, but in case this does somehow fall into your hands, I’ll try not to give too much of our future away. But hey, now that you know you’ve made it to our sixty-third birthday, maybe I’ve given too much away already, but I’ll try to careful. You’ve already figured out that the co-ed Chaminade-Julienne is really different than our all-male Chaminade. You’ll get through it and have stories to tell the rest of our life. College will be much better. We’ll really hit our stride.

The simple message of this letter is “don’t change a thing”. Not that life won’t throw us curve balls along the way and there are things I wish we could have avoided, but any deviation might derail the life we have now. We have a wonderful wife who is truly the love of our life, our friend, our travel companion and our soulmate. We have two awesome children that we’re immensely proud of. So does our wife. I guess that gave away a little history. Worth the gamble.

We’re in pretty good shape at 18-years old and we are about to have the best suntan of our life. Our senior picture will be our best photo ever. Our passion for running, albeit interrupted at times, will be lifelong. It’s not really exercise to us, just a way to relax, think and enjoy the landscape. We’ll run some long ones, we’ll run some pretty fast ones, but mainly we’ll just run for fun. Certainly don’t change that.

Most of the plans we’ve made over the years did not work out. That’s good, because things worked out even better. Our expected career choice did not pan out, but what we end up pursuing is so much better. That cute girl in class doesn’t work out either, the first of a few like that. But don’t change a thing, because we’re waking up every morning with the best one.

Back in your day we’re pretty much a mountain vacation guy. Our career will change that as we travel, more at times than others, and we explore a decent chunk of the world. We’ll play some scenic golf courses, stand at the top of majestic ski slopes and watch sunsets settle over beautiful beaches. So while life will be challenging, and at times stressful beyond belief, it’s not without its share of really fun experiences.

We retired a month and a half ago because we wanted to and could afford to do so. We’re healthy and looking forward to the freedom and adventures. Our career morphed over the years and we can continue to play with, oops almost gave that away, into retirement.

I’m going out to check the mailbox for a letter from our 85-year-old self. But if there isn’t one there, I’ll just assume time travel really wasn’t solved or we’re just too busy to write.

Hang in there. Don’t change a thing. Everything works out the way it’s supposed to. And it’s pretty great.

Happily ours,

Paul @ 63

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Unexpectedly Long Runs

Typical runs are done on known routes at known distances, but every once in awhile you just start running with an idea in mind and get a bit carried away. Other times you get more than a little carried away. These three running stories stick out in my memory as the extremes of the “more” side.

Back in my high school days I lived in North Dayton, a little more than three miles from the center of downtown Dayton. I wasn’t a long distance runner at the time, but I was in pretty good shape, so when some friends were meeting in Centerville to play some basketball, I decided I would just run there and have a nice longer run. But I wasn’t familiar with the southern parts of Dayton and had no real idea of how far Centerville was, but I guess I figured it couldn’t be too far since I just needed to go through Kettering and into Centerville. Didn’t know about Oakwood and Washington Township. By the time I made it to the basketball court in Centerville I was pretty tired, and only later found out I had run a little over 13 miles. Had the story ended there it would certainly qualify as unexpectedly long, but I then proceeded to play 45 minutes of full-court, one-on-one basketball. I was not only in decent shape, but I was also decently stupid. By the end of all that, it was all I could do to crawl into my buddy’s car and let him drive me home, hardly able to move.

Sometime in my late forties, the MeadWestvaco Information Technology leadership team went on an overnight retreat to Hueston Woods, one of Ohio’s large state parks. I had been to Hueston Woods many times and back in the days when I owned a motorcycle, the park was one of my favorite country destinations. After the first day of the retreat we had about an hour or so before our dinner reservations, so I laced up the running shoes and started running down the road, roughly following the shoreline of Acton Lake. I was feeling pretty good that particular day, so after I ran a couple miles to my initial turnaround point, I decided I would just keep going and run around the entire lake, figuring it would add a couple miles to my planned 4 mile route, as the lake wasn’t that big. A couple miles later the lake’s shoreline was nowhere to be found, but I knew I was going in the right direction, so I continued. A couple more miles passed, I was getting a little tired, and the roads were totally unfamiliar. But turning back at this point was certainly going to result in a very long run, so with a prayer, I continued forward. Now dusk was upon me and a little apprehension started to fill my mind. How far did I have left? Would I get there before dark? Am I really lost? Nothing worse than the fear of the unknown. Finally, and with great relief, I returned to the main road that led to the lodge, relieved that only a short distance remained. Exhausted, I went to my room, showered quickly and joined my group as they were eating dessert, having to explain my absence, but the look on my face probably said it all. I was so tired that all I could manage was to drink several glasses of water, as the thought of eating food was unpleasant.  I sure had a great sleep that night.

Much of my formal mainframe training occurred in Crystal City, Maryland, located just west of Washington National Airport (now Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport) and southwest of Washington DC. One of my favorite runs was a two-mile trek over to the north end of the airport, stopping to enjoy jet planes on their final landing approach, roaring a few hundred feet above my head, with their landing gear down, wings at full flaps and the plane tipped slightly backwards to land rear wheels first. On one particular trip my friend Jim Nicholas and I travelled together, so I had my running buddy with me when we headed over to the airport. We were both in good shape and felt great that day, so instead of heading back to the hotel, we looked at the Washington Monument in the distance and figured that didn’t look too far, so we headed up to I-395 which would get us across the Potomac River and into DC. First lesson was that large objects in the distance are much farther away than they look. So when we finally entered DC at the Jefferson Memorial, we had run another three miles or more. But we were in DC and pumped up. We ran over to the Lincoln Memorial, then to the Washington Monument making a loop through the city. Then we learned the second lesson, we had to run back, and without the emotional benefits of exploration we had heading into the city. All told, our modest run turned into a half-marathon or more, but ended with one of the best running stories of our life.